Graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Statistics has a special significance for Ms Philile Mlotshwa whose matric points, and particularly her Mathematics result, were deemed inadequate to secure her a place in a Bachelor of Commerce degree programme in 2008.

Despite having passed matric at Howick Secondary School with merit and obtaining a distinction in Standard Grade Mathematics, Mlotshwa was forced, as an alternative, to register for a Bachelor of Social Science degree on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

However, refusing to give up on her ambitions, and concerned about the stiff competition for employment opportunities in the social science sector, Mlotshwa applied in the second semester to transfer to the BSc programme. Even though she still did not have sufficient points to be admitted, the incumbent Dean, Professor Deo Jaganyi, was impressed by Mlotshwa’s Mathematics marks and overall progress.

So in 2009, she was provisionally allowed to undertake her BSc degree. Not only did she manage to pass all her modules at first attempt, in 2010, she was awarded the Victor Daitz Bursary for achieving excellent academic results.  In 2011 she obtained the GI Bateman Memorial Book Prize for being the top third-year level Mathematics student. Mlotshwa completed her BSc Mathematics and Statistics in record time and received 10 Certificates of Merits and two Deans’ Commendations for her studies.

In 2012 she enrolled for a BSc (Honours) in Statistics at UKZN-Westville campus. Mlotshwa said she anticipated a drop in her academic performance owing to the relocation away from home, but this was not to be. ‘Fortunately, I was greeted by the most warm and welcoming staff of the Actuarial Science and Statistics Department on the Westville campus. Most importantly my gratitude is extended to my Honours supervisor, Mr Jordache Ramjith, who continued to encourage me to work hard,’ she said.

Mlotshwa is presently enrolled for her Master of Science (MSc) degree in Statistics with a research topic titled “Competing Risks and Multi-state Survival Analysis with an Application to HIV”. She is supervised by Ramjith and co-supervised by Professor Glenda Matthews. She has received funding from the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis and as well as a University of KwaZulu-Natal scholarship.

According to Ramjith, Mlotshwa is hardworking, jovial and has a very bubbly personality. ‘She is pleasant to be around and always executes her tasks well. It gives me great pleasure to be able to continue supervising Ms Mlotshwa for her Masters degree,’ he said.

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